February 29, 2012

Healthified Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mustard Cream Sauce

Healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mustard Cream Sauce
Terrible picture from my phone's camera .  Awesomely delicious healthy dish.
Neither my mom nor I have ever met a piece of cheese we didn’t like (Well, except for Muenster.  I definitely don’t like Muenster. I think it smells like dirty socks, BLECH!) so it’s no shocker that we have very fond memories of and much love for cheesy foods.    But for the first time, we’re both on the same page at the same time about losing weight and, *sigh*, cheese and weight loss just don’t seem to go together.  Until now.

With 50% less fat and 30% less calories, but still melting into a warm, ooey, gooey cheesy puddle, Jarlsberg Lite is the perfect cheese for this healthified dish.  The other small but really impactful changes -  baking instead of frying, using a lower sodium ham, a Dijon & water wash replacing the fattening egg wash and fiber boost of the whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs – take this dish is from shameful to sham-a-lama-ding-dong making this a dish certain to be a happy – and repeated – memory for a long time.

If you're looking for awesome recipes to help you create cheesy (the GOOD kind of cheesy!) memories, the Jarlsberg USA blog is the place to go.  And, while you're out internet hopping, head on over and check out Eat, Write, Retreat and check out their fantastic blogger's retreat, which, in all disclosure, is what I'm hoping to win a trip to with this yummy blog post.  

February 28, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock made from Roast Chicken

Homemade Chicken Stock made from Roast Chicken
Chicken Stock from Roast Chicken (before skimming the foam)

One of the things I’m really trying to get better at, as far as cooking goes, is to make more things from scratch and chicken stock has become a new homemade favorite.  We hear it all the time “Once you try homemade stock, you’ll never buy store-bought again.” And while there really is no similarity between homemade and store-bought, I still buy my fair share of boxed stock but I use it when I am using stock in place of water, or in dishes where I want added flavor but not the full-fledged, in-your-face flavor this homemade stock brings to the party, thanks to the fact that I use a roasted bird and not a raw one.  If you want to make the milder stock, just use a raw bird instead of the carcass of a cooked one.  The meat will need to be discarded, as it will have given up all of its chickeny goodness to the stock. 

February 26, 2012

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Marsala over Parmesan-Herb Polenta

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Marsala over Parmesan-Herb Polenta

I know to most people (i.e. my dad), chicken is the most boring protein in the world.  Word on the culinary street is that Iron Chef Michael Symon HATES boneless skinless chicken breasts and refuses to cook with them.  Fortunately, whole birds get a much better rap and why shouldn’t they?  When cooked right they are juicy, tender and covered in crispy goodness.  The bones of the bird can be used to make the most delicious homemade chicken stock and the leftover meat, well, just grab you some fungi, those precious leftovers and cornmeal and you can whip up a company worthy-but weeknight doable meal like this. 

Oh and even if there’s only 2 of you for dinner, take my advice and make the whole recipe.  The polenta stores beautifully in the fridge and I promise, you’ll be dying to take the rest to the office for lunch. 

February 24, 2012

Grilled Avocado & "Poached" Eggs

Grilled Avocado & "Poached" Eggs

I recently saw a blog post about eggs cooked in avocados and dang near smacked myself in the forehead the moment I saw the picture.  For years I made a similar dish that I dearly loved until somehow, one day, I just stopped making it.  In fact, I grew to forget about it.  It’s weird how that happens.  Something is a favorite thing and then one day, it’s not. Time goes by and with every passing day, the memory of the thing becomes more and more transparent until what’s left is such a frail little wisp that any attempt to grab hold of it will only shatter it into a million cobwebs.   Then BLAMO! you’re reminded of the thing and all that happy happy joy joy comes back and it’s once again on your All Time Fave’s list.  And if you’re like me, you promise it you’ll never ever ever forget about it again.  Pinky swear.

Not even really a recipe, this combination is such a pleasing meal, perfect for any time of the day.  The creamy avocado and oozey golden egg yolk are gently warmed through and make the perfect smear for some toasted bread.  And don’t think the bacon is just gratuitous (it never is.) – you NEED that crispy, salty meatstick to balance all the butteryness happening here.  Oh yeah you do. 

February 20, 2012

Mediterranean Salmon-Pistachio Pesto Burgers in Phyllo Dough with Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Mediterranean Salmon-Pistachio Pesto Burgers in Phyllo Dough with Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

I honestly don’t think I've ever made a dish and then done a post as quickly as this burger.  Ever.   It made my mouth soooo happy. It’s just amazing.  The crispy, flaky phyllo and the creaminess of the salmon are the perfect complement to the crunch of the pistachios and the tang of the feta and yogurt.  Full of flavor and texture, light but satisfying, it hits all the right things when you’re craving a burger without all the added guilt.  I wolfed mine down with some baked sweet potato fries and of course, the spicy dipping sauce. 

Oh and you can make them, bake them and freeze them.  But let’s be honest, they aren’t going to be around that long.  All you’ll do is think about that burger sitting in the kitchen, daring you not to eat it.  Just like my other burger is doing.  Right.  Now.

February 15, 2012

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Kale & Herbed Topping

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Kale & Herbed Topping

In my (evidently) never-ending search to use kale in as many ways as possible, I came up with recipe as great meatless meal.  It’s warm, creamy and hearty without being heavy. Of course, a gorgeously grilled pork chop would make an excellent partner in crime here as well! 

February 9, 2012

Kale & Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage & Gorgonzola Sauce

Kale & Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage & Gorgonzola Sauce

This recipe was actually a throw-together meal that used up a bunch of leftovers: leftover homemade pasta, creamed kale and butternut squash purée.  It came together easily and was out-of-this-world delicious (but then again, browned butter could make drywall taste fab).  Light but still rich, it was the perfect ending to my Butternut Squashapalooza that I've been on lately!

Kale & Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, Walnuts, Sage and Gorgonzola Sauce
Makes 30 Ravioli, Serving 6 generously

1 batch of homemade pasta dough, or (1) 60 count pack of wonton wrappers
1 batch of creamed kale
1 2lb butternut squash or 2 cups roasted butternut squash purée
1 stick of unsalted butter
20 leaves fresh sage
3oz gorgonzola cheese
1 2.25oz package of walnut halves or pieces
Kosher salt

For the filling:  If roasting the butternut squash, preheat oven to 400°.  Cut the squash in half and place on a large baking sheet.  Coat each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh is very tender and pulls easily away from the sides.  Let cool slightly and scoop out the flesh.  Add flesh to a food processor and blend until smooth.   You may need to add a little chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water) if the puree isn’t blending well. 

Combine purée with creamed kale and butternut squash purée in a bowl and set aside. 

To make the raviolis with pasta dough:  Make dough as directed here and proceed with these instructions:

After the dough has rested, cut the ball of dough in half and cut one half into halves again so that you have 3 pieces of dough. We’ll start by working with only one of the quarters, so set aside the other 3 pieces under a towel or plastic wrap so they don't dry out.  Using a rolling pin (or your palm), flatten the fourth one into a large oval. 

Set your pasta machine’s rollers at their widest setting. Feed the flattened dough through the rollers a few time on the widest setting, folding it in thirds and turning a quarter turn before each time you feed it through. This helps provide stability and smoothness to the dough.

Begin feeding the dough through the machine’s rollers, lowering the dial with each pass.  As the dough becomes longer, you may need to cut it in half in order for it to be manageable.  Don’t worry, the length of the end result doesn’t matter.  Just try to keep the multiple ribbons consistent lengths.  For this ravioli, I will usually stop running the dough through when the dial is on #2.  Because of the weight of the creamed kale, you don’t want the dough too thin but if you want to take it all the way to #1, that’s fine.

When each ribbon is complete, place on a large sheet pan dusted with flour, cornmeal or semolina flour and cover the tray with a towel to keep the ribbons from drying out.

Continue until all the dough has been rolled into ribbons.

Filling & sealing the ravioli:  Place one ribbon on your work surface and place 1 tablespoon of filling at equal intervals, in the center of the ribbon.  Based on ribbons the size of a large cookie sheet (half-sheet pan), I can get 5 ravioli per sheet.

Seal the ravioli by dipping your finger into a bowl of water and form a square around each ravioli by wetting the top, bottom and side, leaving about ¼ inch from the filling to the side.  You want to have enough room to seal each ravioli and cut them apart from the others.

Place an equally-sized (or slightly larger) ribbon on top of the moistened bottom ribbon and gently press down around each bit of filling with so you can push the air out.  You need to remove the air around the filling before you seal the top ribbon to the wetted areas of the bottom ribbon.   Not sealing properly and removing the air from the raviolis are the key reasons (along with the water, but we’ll get to that) why they explode when being boiled.

Cut your ravioli with either a ravioli cutter or a sharp knife, careful not to cut too close to the filling.  Once separated, press around the mound of filling again to remove any little air bubbles.

Place the cut ravioli on another floured cookie sheet until all are completed.  At this point, you can use what you need and freeze the rest.  Just place the tray with the amount you want to freeze directly into the freezer and let it hang for a few hours.  Then you can store in the container or ziptop bag of your choice.  They keep well for several weeks.

To use wonton wrappers:  Fill one wrapper as directed above and wet all four edges.  Place another on top and press out the air before sealing completely.  Follow storing and freezing directions as directed above.

Boiling the ravioli:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.  Reduce heat slightly so that the water is no longer at a rolling boil, just a quick simmer.  A harsh boil can also cause the ravioli to explode or tear. The ravioli will sink when added to the water and when they are done, they will float.  While the ravioli cook, make the browned butter sauce.

Making the browned butter sauce & finishing the ravioli:  Place a sauté pan over medium heat and place the entire stick of butter in the pan.  Allow the butter to cook until it just becomes a light golden brown in color.  Add sage leaves and walnuts and allow to cook for 2 minutes while the butter continues to brown.  You’ll want to watch the butter carefully as it can go too brown and burn.  Turn off heat, add ravioli and swirl for a moment or two.  Plate ravioli and drizzle with browned butter and fried sage leaves.  Top with walnuts and crumbles of Gorgonzola.  Dive in!

February 3, 2012

Dippy Eggs with Toast Soldiers (Or Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs With Crunchy Toast Sticks)

Dippy Eggs with Toast Soldiers (Or Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs With Crunchy Toast Sticks)

Are you a morning person?  I am…not. Nope, I am definitely not a morning person.  Except that I am.  Well, kinda.  Sorta.  See, as much as I don’t want to pry myself out of my warm, comfy bed, I don’t like to sleep late.  Actually, I can’t sleep late. I’m up every day at 6 am at the latest, including weekend days (Okay, well, most weekend days.) and it KILLS me.  No matter how tired I am, as soon as the light of day, combined with the dream-shattering noise of a trash truck/bird/squirrel, bullies its way into my once serene bedroom, I’m up.  Reluctantly, begrudgingly but I am up.  But even as an epidemically early riser, my brain is in complete slow-mo until 10am (and a minimum 3 cups of coffee).  Fortunately for me (and anyone who would be my officemates if I had a 9-5 job), I have the great luxury of working from my couch home.

So not surprisingly, with my flex schedule and my love for cooking, my friends assume I’m using all these early morning hours to whip up fabulous breakfasts.  Umm, yeah.  Not so much.  For the most part, breakfast means a protein shake or bowl of cereal – along with those 3 cups of coffee.  But, one of the major benefits of working from home, other than getting my money’s worth from every pair of sweat pants I’ve ever purchased, is that if I want to make a leisurely breakfast on a weekday, I can.  Booyah.

But this breakfast?  It’s a cheat.  It’s not leisurely, but it feels like it.  It’s actually the epitome of fast food.  It takes only 4 minutes for an egg to become set on the outside and the yolk to turn into a gooey, rich pool of sunshine.   And those crispy soldiers?  They cook in the same 4 little minutes as the eggs.   Which, if you think about it, makes it the perfect breakfast for us non-morning folk.  All we have to do is remember to not boil the bread and toast the eggs.  We can do that, right?